Thursday, February 10, 2005

Why ePortfolios?

My thanks to Stephen Harlow for telling me about Helen Barrett’s presentation at Ultralab South which was held in Christchurch last December. The presentation helped me consolidate my learning about what ePortfolios were about.

In Helen’s latest blog, she writes about her plans to ‘retire’ by launching herself into a new research project. I look forward to following her work on the Reflect Initiative which stands for stands for Researching Electronic portFolios: Learning, Engagement, Collaboration through Technology. The details make for interesting reading on the way one direction ePortfolios could be heading.

My interest in ePortfolios stems from my teaching context. I teach bakers and here in New Zealand, a large proportion of New Zealand apprentice bakers come to the NZ Baking Training Centre for block courses. Apprentices are assessed using competency based assessments with the majority of these assessments to be completed in the workplace. The majority of the smaller bakeries are finding it extremely time consuming to complete these assessments for their apprentices, so they are lobbying to have all assessments completed off-job. This throws the challenges for gathering evidence to proof competency on to the providers who offer training to the industry. Hence my interest in looking at how technology may help make gathering evidence for competency based assessments more user friendly for apprentices and less paper heavy for bakery tutors.

I believe that ePortfolios have a crucial role to play in workplace evidence gathering for competency based assessments. One of the concepts I am exploring is the use of ePortfolios to help apprentices present a more holistic picture of their skills, knowledge and passion for the trade they are training in. Competency based standards are awfully proscribed, structured and atomistic. They break craft skills up into small achieveble competencies when often, the ability to bring all the many facets that make up an artisan's expertise is not fully understood (even by the artisans themselves, let alone the many academics studying the subject). ePortfolios provide an opportunity for apprentices to :-
  • showcase their practical skills,
  • reflect on the way in which their knowledge of the craft is growing, evolving, consolidating
  • demonstrate their changing attitudes to the trade as they move from novice to journeyperson
  • create a tangible resource as a base for their lifelong learning projects
  • store their achievements in one repository from which they are able to build new portfolios for various objectives in their career
  • share their work with their peers and their families, friends, employers etc.

I would really appreciate feedback on the above, especially from others in the Vocational Education sector who might also be working on similar projects.

No comments: